Kinds, Things, and Stuff: Mass Terms and Generics

Hardcover | December 17, 2009

EditorFrancis Jeffry Pelletier

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A generic statement is a type of generalization that is made by asserting that a "kind" has a certain property. For example we might hear that marshmallows are sweet. Here, we are talking about the "kind" marshmallow and assert that individual instances of this kind have the property of beingsweet. Almost all of our common sense knowledge about the everyday world is put in terms of generic statements. What can make these generic sentences be true even when there are exceptions? A mass term is one that does not "divide its reference;" the word water is a mass term; the word dog is acount term. In a certain vicinity, one can count and identity how many dogs there are, but it doesn't make sense to do that for water - there just is water present. The philosophical literature is rife with examples concerning how a thing can be composed of a mass, such as a statue being composed ofclay. Both generic statements and mass terms have led philosophers, linguists, semanticists, and logicians to search for theories to accommodate these phenomena and relationships. The contributors to this interdisciplinary volume study the nature and use of generics and mass terms. Noted researchers in the psychology of language use material from the investigation of human performance and child-language learning to broaden the range of options open for formal semanticists inthe construction of their theories, and to give credence to some of their earlier postulations - for instance, concerning different types of predications that are available for true generics and for the role of object recognitions in the development of count vs. mass terms. Relevant data also isdescribed by investigating the ways children learn these sorts of linguistic items: children can learn how to sue generic statements correctly at an early age, and children are adept at individuating objects and distinguishing them from the stuff of which they are made also at an early age.

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A generic statement is a type of generalization that is made by asserting that a "kind" has a certain property. For example we might hear that marshmallows are sweet. Here, we are talking about the "kind" marshmallow and assert that individual instances of this kind have the property of beingsweet. Almost all of our common sense knowle...

Francis Jeffry Pelletier is Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science and Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics at Simon Fraser University.

other books by Francis Jeffry Pelletier

Format:HardcoverDimensions:248 pages, 6.3 × 9.41 × 1.18 inPublished:December 17, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195382897

ISBN - 13:9780195382891

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Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroductionI. Generics1. Generics: A Philosophical Introduction2. Generics and Concepts3. Conceptual Representation and Some Forms of Genericity4. Are all Generic Statements Created Equal?5. Stability in Generic Concepts and Evaluating the Truth of Generic Statements6. Generics as a Window onto Young Children's ConceptsII. Mass Terms7. Mass Terms: A Philosophical Introduction8. A Piece of Cheese, a Grain of Sand: The Semantics of Mass Nouns and Unitizers9. On Using Count Nouns, Mass Nouns, and Pluralia tantum: What Counts?10. Count Nouns, Sortal Concepts, and the Nature of Early WordsIndex